Birmingham – Open Air Pools

The following is taken directly from The City of Birmingham Baths Department 1851 – 1951. The work was written and compiled by J. Moth M.N.A.B.S Birmingham 1951 and is presented here.

Cannon Hill Park Open Air PoolBirmingham’s first Municipal open-air bathing facilities were provided at the time Cannon Hill Park was being prepared, The Corporation installing an out-door swimming pool near the north-west boundary of the Park in close proximity to the two large boating pools. These facilities were made available on the opening of the Park on the ist September, 1873, and were leased to the lessee of the boating pools. This lease, however, was not renewed in 1899 when it was decided that for the future the Baths Committee should be responsible for the management.

The water area of the pool was about 216 feet in length by 100 feet wide, and had a depth of 2 ft. 6 ins, to 6 feet at its deepest end. The bottom and sloping sides were formed of concrete, and the water supply was obtained from a small stream which had its source within the Park boundaries. A popular fallacy which persisted to the closing of the bath in 1939, was that the water supply came from a branch of the River Rea, but this was not so, as this source runs parallel to the bath outside the Park boundary some 6 feet below the level of the pool. Dressing accommodation was provided at one side of the bath with a paved promenade, and the remaining sides were turfed with sloping banks planted with shrubbery.

Ticket OfficeA second open-air swimming bath was opened on 9th July, 1883, in Small Heath (Victoria) Park. Forming an extension to the existing ornamental pool, this bath was oval in shape and some 138 feet long, and 85 feet at its widest part, with a depth of feet to 6 feet at the deep end. The accommodation and layout was similar to that provided at Cannon Hill Park.

Birmingham’s third out-door bath was at Brookvale Park, Erdington. Part of the disused reservoir was used for the purpose, and, opened on 7th October, 1909, it was available until 1926.

Whilst there is no doubt that the City’s open-air pools gave pleasure to many over the years, it cannot be denied that it was only under extremely favourable weather conditions that any real attendances were attracted. Furthermore, judging by present standards, the conditions left much to be desired; and indeed, when certain standards for pools controlled by Local Authorities were insisted upon by the Ministry of Health, it became apparent that the baths at Cannon Hill and Small Heath would have to close. Constructed as they were, the cost of installing adequate filtration and chlorination plant was considered prohibitive, and early in 1939 both pools were closed.

It must not be thought, however, that we have seen the last of out-door bathing in the City. The Baths Committee’s plans for the future include the provision of out-door bathing facilities on the most modern lines, and it is possible that certain establishments to be erected in suitable areas will include out-door as well as indoor facilities.


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